Girl Power

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Independence National Historical Park and Historic Philadelphia, Inc recently announced new programming for 2020. “Proclaiming Liberty and Justice: Celebrating Women and the Right to Vote” will highlight women’s history in The City of Sisterly Love with events starting this month and running until September.

Since 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, it’s only fitting to celebrate such a historic occasion on a large scale.

“I am pleased that our two organizations are able to collaborate in a big way this year to highlight historic women and commemorate the 19th amendment to the Constitution that expanded voting rights for the second time in the country’s history,” said Cynthia MacLeod, Superintendent of Independence National Historical Park in a release. “Independence Square and Independence Mall, for centuries now, have been major symbolic locations for first amendment activities that have advocated for expansions of civil rights, expanding the definitions of key phrases in the Declaration of Independence. In 1787, when our founders wrote our Constitution, they built in a way for our nation, our laws, and our government to change—and they certainly have. I imagine that all those involved in the fight for Women’s Suffrage would be pleased to see how far we have come today.”

Part of the new immersive activities and educational happenings surrounding “Proclaiming Liberty” includes History Maker Appearances and The Declaration of Sentiments. The History Maker Appearances will kick off this summer and will feature actors portraying Lucretia Coffin Mott, Frances Watkins Harper and Alice Paul, some of the real women who led the movement at different moments in time from its start in 1840 through the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. According to the release, the appearances will take place Wednesdays through Sundays from June 17 – Sept. 27 (noon – 3 p.m.). Visitors will be able to interact with, hear from, play with, or march alongside one or more of these History Makers for free throughout Independence National Historical Park and talk with them about their efforts for women’s suffrage and other causes important to them.

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The Declaration of Sentiments will also feature Mott, Harper and Paul, but for this specific event, there will also be a storyteller from Once Upon A Nation there with them. The Declaration of Sentiments was first written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and was released at the First Women’s Rights Convention in 1848. The piece changed key phrases from The Declaration of Independence to include needs from the women’s suffrage movement including stating that all men and women are created equal. The free Declaration of Sentiments program will take place Wednesdays through Sundays, June 17 – Sept. 27, at noon, 1 and 2 p.m. at Independence Square, on the south side of Independence Hall, near the Commodore Barry statue.

While waiting for the recurring Declaration and History Maker events to begin, there are also activities surrounding “Proclaiming Liberty” beginning this spring.

On March 14 (4 -4:30 p.m., free) and 29 (3 -3:30 p.m., free) a park ranger will lead Philadelphians through “The Unfinished Revolution: African American Women & the Struggle for the Vote” at the Second Bank of the U.S. Then, on March 21 (1 -2 p.m.) guests can head to the Benjamin Franklin Museum for another free event featuring two women from the year 1920 offering visitors a look into the race to ratification and the other issues women in that time faced. Also on March 21 (3 -4 p.m., free) will be another event titled “Our Sons Are What We Make Them: The Anti- Suffrage Movement in the United States.” This event will take place at the Second Bank of the U.S. and will detail the differences between the Suffrage and Anti-Suffrage movements.

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On March 22, 28 and 29 (3 -3:30 p.m., free) those looking to learn more about the suffrage movement for women can head to Second Bank of the U.S. again to check out “Born for Liberty: Women in the War for Independence” which details how the Revolutionary War helped pave the way for the women’s suffrage movement.

Three temporary exhibits will also be open to the public in March, April and May to celebrate “Proclaiming Liberty.”

First up, opening on March 25 is “Raising Their Voices for Women’s Suffrage” which will call the East Wing of Independence Hall home. According to the release, guests can explore women’s suffrage stories connected to Independence Square and stand in the place where women made history. The stories of Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, and Frances Watkins Harper will be featured, and the exhibit will include hands-on elements to explore with interest for the whole family.

Then in April, “Women of Change, Women of Protest” will open in the Liberty Bell Center. The exhibit will be focusing on the Suffrage movement with a lens on events that happened in the City of Brotherly Love specifically through rich imagery and thoughtful text. The exhibit will feature contributions of early suffragists like Lucretia Mott and Harriet Forten Purvis and a 1915 replica of the Liberty Bell, with the inscription “Establish Justice!”

Lastly, in May, Philadelphians can look out for “Women’s Rights and Roles in Early America” which will open at the Benjamin Franklin Museum and explore women’s rights and roles in America  before, during, and immediately after the Revolutionary War.

One special addition to “Proclaiming Liberty” also includes the Women’s Suffrage Trail. The Trail will explore the history of the Women’s Suffrage Movement in a fun and unique way. Visitors will search for LEGO mini-figures in the park buildings by using clue sheets during this light-hearted scavenger hunt. Clue sheets will be available at the Ranger Desk in the Independence Visitor Center, beginning in April.

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For more information on “Proclaiming Liberty and Justice: Celebrating Women and the Right to Vote,” visit  historicphiladelphia.org

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